Monday, October 19, 2009

Clean Air = Dirty Water?

There is an interesting article over at the New York Times regarding an unintended side-effect of stricter air pollution regulations on coal fired power plants.

The gist of the article is that tougher clean air laws have forced power plants to scrub their air emissions. Unfortunately, the plants apparently dump much of the scrubbed material into local rivers and water supplies. And while the material they are dumping is supposedly "treated," the treatment doesn't remove everything - including a number of heavy metals that have been shown to be carcinogenic.

The EPA is currently considering tougher regulations on power plant discharges, and has attempted to enact them in the past. But the lobbyists are out in force opposing any heavier regulation.

I take away from this article the importance of regarding environmental regulation in a holistic sense. This problem was created with the best of intentions - the desire to clean up air pollution. But an inability or unwillingness to look at the situation as a whole - i.e. "where are the plants' by-products going to go if not into the air?" - has simply shifted the environmental impact rather than ameliorated or eliminated it.

I also believe that regardless of the lobbying efforts to the contrary, greater regulation of power plant emissions will happen. I believe that is simply the political reality of the 21st century. And it would behoove the industry to get ahead of the problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment